Michael J. Fox makes a welcome return to TV this fall, starring in an eponymous NBC sitcom as a news anchor and married father of three who returns to the job after five years away. The character, like Fox, has Parkinson’s disease. In reality, Fox has four kids—Sam, 23, 18-year-old twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, and Esmé, 11—from his marriage to actress Tracy Pollan (she’s Jewish, he isn’t). They met when she guest starred as his love interest in his series Family Ties, and have been married for 25 years. She plays his upstairs neighbor in the second half of The Michael J. Fox Show’s two-episode premiere on September 26.
Scarlett Johansson gets her Scandinavian surname from her Danish father, but she identifies as Jewish, her mother’s faith. She has two movies coming out this fall: The first, opening September 27, is Don Jon, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man whose Internet porn addiction threatens his relationship with his girlfriend, played by Johansson. Her, opening November 20, casts her as the Siri-like voice of a computer operating system that becomes the obsession of a shy writer (Joaquin Phoenix). And now making the festival circuit rounds, Under the Skin features Johansson as a sexual predator—an alien in human form.
“Zach Cropper is not Jewish, but I am,” says James Wolk, talking about his character in the new CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, premiering September 29. Wolk, who will be familiar to fans of Mad Men and Political Animals, co-stars with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a young advertising genius, “a fun guy, a Peter Pan. He never wants to grow up.” A native of suburban Detroit, Michigan, Wolk had a Reform Jewish upbringing. He currently has a “serious girlfriend” who is not Jewish. The difference in their religions is not a problem. “It’s important to some people, but for me it’s about love, it’s about who you connect with, about who you respond to,” he says, adding that his parents “are fine with it.” What about raising children? Wolk acknowledges that his late paternal grandmother would be concerned about that, “But we’re not even there yet. It’s far down the line.”
The new PBS series Genealogy Roadshow is like “Antiques Roadshow” except the investigations have to do with peoples’ ancestry instead of objects and artwork, and it visits four cities this fall to shake the family trees of a diverse array of information seekers. It premieres September 23 and in the fourth episode, a Latina from San Antonio, Texas, named Denise Garza Steusloff asks for help to prove she has Jewish ancestry, dating back to the Spanish Jews that fled the Inquisition. She suspected she had Sephardic roots, as her family observed the Jewish holidays, but “The problem was we had no hard evidence. We couldn’t find paperwork, and that was what I really wanted was that hard paper trail, something that I could prove,” she says. Find out what she discovered on October 14.